If you enter the term "online payment services" into the Google search engine, you are presented with a multitude of possibilities. Another payment service entered the fray last year, hoping for a piece of the rapidly growing auction-payments market: CheckFree Auction Payments.
CheckFree was founded in 1981 and works with financial institutions, Web portals and organizations that issue regular bills or statements to give consumers the ability to receive and pay bills online. CheckFree works with financial institutions including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, MSN and Yahoo, and delivers e-Bills for companies such as AT&T and Bloomingdale's. In the UK, CheckFree has just announced a joint venture with BACS to bring electronic bills and statements to UK consumers.
CheckFree launched CheckFree Auction Payments at eBay Live 2003 in an attempt to expand their services even further. CheckFree Auction Payments offers a service for auction users to pay for their items online, but there is a difference between CheckFree and PayPal. "Displaying the CheckFree pay button on an auction listing enables sellers to accept guaranteed payments from anyone who has a checking account held at a U.S. bank," explains Merrick Theobald, Marketing Consultant at CheckFree. "When a seller receives a CheckFree payment, they can rest assured that it gets deposited directly into their bank account instead of an account held at a third party."
During the CheckFree sign-up process, the applicant's identity is verified, which cuts down on the possibility of fraudulent transactions. When approved, the applicant can then use CheckFree Auction Payments to make e-payments for their eBay auction bills. CheckFree takes the money directly from the buyer's bank account. In many cases, the person making or receiving the payment is already a CheckFree user for their normal household bills, so they are already familiar with the CheckFree process. It is this familiarity that convinces CheckFree that they can compete alongside companies such as PayPal.
"Consumers who currently pay bills from MyCheckFree.com can add to this the ability to make auction and Internet retail payments," said Mr Theobald. "We view CheckFree Auction Payments as being complementary to, rather than in direct competition with, PayPal. We believe there is room for both of us in the online auction market."
As with PayPal, CheckFree Auction Payments offers automatic logo insertion facilities, but thanks to eBay's "Authentication & Authorization Process," you don't need to reveal your eBay password to CheckFree (http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y04/m04/i29/s01).
Signing up with CheckFree also offers other benefits, such as automatic payment confirmation, invoicing and a detailed payment history. But for the moment, CheckFree Auction Payments is restricted to the U.S. only. "CheckFree's electronic billing and statement software is currently implemented in 23 countries worldwide," said Mr Theobald, "however, we have no current plans to expand our auction payments service internationally."
All transactions are free for July, but starting again from August, CheckFree Auction Payment's fees will be 1.85% and 30 cents per transaction compared to a minimum of 2.2% and 30 cents per transaction for Paypal.